On the Fence About Fences?Published April 29, 2011
One of the many joys of living in rural Bucks County, PA is the proximity of real farm life. I love the fact that the Sunday newspaper comes with a special advertising section for tractors, I love that my neighbors have goats and chickens, and I love that we’re a stone’s throw from three different butchers that raise their own cattle. The local newspaper routinely covers farm-y news, and today’s front page article was about two neighborhood dogs that attacked a herd of sheep. The accompanying color photo showed one of the sheep with a deep gash on his front shoulder – gory stuff to go with my morning coffee.
That the dogs went after the sheep was of concern, certainly, but dogs can hunt/chase/bite. It happens. However, there was one line in the article that stood out for me; the two dogs “escaped” from their invisible fenced yard during the night. That one line held the key to the attack (aside from natural prey drive)…the dogs were left unattended in a yard with an invisible fence.
I’ve never been a fan of invisible fences. I understand why people use them – they’re more affordable than actual fences, they don’t disrupt the landscape, they provide a boundary when a real fence isn’t an option – but I don’t understand why people use them the way they use them. An invisible fence isn’t failsafe, and therefore shouldn’t be considered a babysitter for an unattended dog. Many dogs can “break” the fence line given the proper inducement on the other side, whether it’s a blowing leaf, a friendly neighbor, or the promise of sheep over the next hill. “Turning up the juice” on the zap delivered to the dog doesn’t always do the trick to keep the dog from breaching the boundaries. I’ve met a few dogs that continued to run through the fence no matter how high the setting.
I’m not suggesting that people need to stay glued to their dogs when they’re in a yard with an invisible fence. I am saying that some level of supervision is important to keep fence running and a host of other undesirable behaviors like barking and fence fighting from developing.
No fence is failsafe. We have a 4-foot high fence surrounding our one acre yard and I still refuse to leave Millie and Sumner out in the yard unless I’m working close by. Am I a Nervous Nellie? Sure. But I also know that there are a few spots where a curious 11-pound dog could slip out if she so desired. Plus the two of them can kick up a ruckus if they see Mr. Cyclist riding too close to “their” turf, and I don’t want to be the obnoxious neighbor who lets her dogs bark at everyone and everything.
The owner of sheep hunters in the article has been cited for the dogs running away once before, so he clearly has some work to do with them, particularly now that they have a taste for lamb chops. What would you do if your dog could outsmart your fence?